Though I only read online papers at home, I tend to get a newspaper every day when I’m in Taiwan. However, during my last trip, I realized this is how you can get really depressed about where you live. Because the news is often bad or depressing. There is constant talk about the economy and the struggles of the people who don’t earn much (22k avg salary/month!), or little scandals get blown up and discussed endlessly by local media.
Many of my friends who live in the US but go back to visit often talk about how great it is to live in Taipei. But when you read the endless depressing news for 3 months, you start feeling anxious about life. By the end, I felt like the city was a great place to visit but not a great place to earn a living. In a way, it’s no different than reading/listening/watching media in the US.
Given we’ve now past the time we typically go home and are now settled into more of a routine where we don’t sight see every day, I wanted to talk more about our experience so far and the little encounters we’ve had.
1. People like to give the kids candies. We’ve gotten candies from taxi cab drivers, teachers, restaurant workers, strangers we meet. Some of them smell funky. We almost always toss them after the fact. One thing people say is that the Taiwanese people are very friendly, and that is true.
2. Unlike last time, fewer people are asking if the kids are mixed. I see a lot more hapa kids in general too. Probably because we’re living close to 3 universities with lots of foreigners learning English here. In fact we get more people asking if Thumper is an older brother and how old they are. She has taken to covering her hair up with her hat.
There are so many places to learn Chinese for overseas children here. But so far, NTUE sounds interesting. Mandarin Kids newspaper also has summer and winter camps. I like NTUE as it’s an University of Education. If we do camps in the summer, I’m going to try them.
3. Some cultural differences I have needed to adjust to: paying at the counter, no toilet paper at public restrooms, and drinks coming at the end of the meal instead of during the meal. The paper napkin situation is funky too. It often is in a dispenser on the wall. On the other hand, not having to tip is very nice.
At quick service restaurants, there are usually slips of papers similar to dim sum restaurants, where you mark what you want, then give it to the owner. I’m still getting used to that as I don’t usually notice them.
4. Food Safety and environmental violations
I read about food safety violations, environmental violations, and lots of real estate ads. There has been a lot of violations in food safety recently. I’d thought that things had improved from when I was a child. I remember mom always telling me not to eat out. But people substitute cow milk in goat powdered milk, add things to cooking oil they’re not supposed to, recall bad flour and then repackage them to resell, add things to cooking oil they’re not supposed to.
I see lots and lots of packages that tout how their food is safe. There are CSAs here as well. Reading about food safety really freaks you out as it makes me wonder about the food I eat.
How it’s different from living in the US.
Given how much I like to eat, the biggest difference for me is the availability of food late at night. The kids have gained some weight and I’m sure I have too. I realized just how much sugar we’ve been consuming compared to the US. Here, we would have dinner, have fruit after, then have some after dinner dessert from a store such as red bean soup or tofu pudding in sweet ginger soup. In the day the kids drink their yukult or have some sugary snack.
It’s so easy to buy ready made food here. But I think that this is why, despite Taipei being aggressive about recycling, it actually produces a lot of plastic food waste. Everytime we go to 7-11, we’re mostly buying plastic wrapped products. Take outs are often in a plastic bag, or paper boxes carried in a plastic bag. We get plastic spoons for each red bean soup we buy. Thank goodness the Taipei government passed those mandates years ago.
I’m slowly cutting our sugar consumption back and eating in general. TOO MUCH GOOD food and I tend to eat like it’s the last time I’m going to have it. On top of that, I do much prefer Chinese food desserts and snacks. My big vice.
Overall, I don’t find prices that much cheaper than the US, especially the more western stuff. If you want pasta it’s $5+. Sometimes closer to $10. Taxis sure are $4 for quick trips one way. But they add up quickly if you take it all the time. MRT start at $0.75 one way, cheap but it also adds up in a city when/if you take the MRT often.
But I find Taipei a great place to live, probably because I’m not making a living here. Since I don’t live here, I see the fruits of planning without waiting and it always seems like such great progress. I love the fact that there are bike stations next to the MRT. This just got put in this year. The MRT itself is fantastic.
We have not done too many touristy things yet. And I havn’t done the shopping and bookstore browsing that I used to do when I visited. I’m glad I’m taking a long visit because I’ve discovered that I’m a slow traveler.